Spat Over Homeless Stats
The city and homeless advocates were never going to agree on how to interpret the results of the census, conducted by hundreds of volunteers from midnight to 4 a.m. on February 27. On the night of the count, Commissioner Winter took pains to describe it as a "snapshot in time," meant only to capture who was truly desperate in the dead of the night, at the end of the month, on any street at the moment a volunteer passed by. But despite the fact that volunteers were told to avoid private buildings and sketchy alleyways, and could pass along each street only once, the results are the yardstick against which Bloomberg's homeless plans will be measured.
The 13 percent decrease to 3,843 homeless people is a drop of 552 people from the 2005 count. This year the volunteer counters found more of the decoys sent out to test whether the census teams are doing their jobs.
The DHS numbers suggest some dramatic changes in where the homeless are. The numbers in the Bronx and Staten Island are about the same from 2005 to 2006. But the number of homeless in Brooklyn (+31 percent) and on the subways (+44 percent) swelled, while the number in Manhattan (-43 percent) dropped substantially. The reported decrease in Queens was 80 percent, leaving the city's biggest borough with only 66 street homeless people in 2006 or one per 1.65 square miles.